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Published August 26, 2015

EDIT (8/27/2015): I have had a conversation with Jason Yue today and, in keeping with my word, his name has been removed from the main article. You can read more about everything that happened concerning that here.

If you wasn’t attached to either Kickstarter or Twitter this weekend, you missed a backer revolt. I missed it as well but I returned online just in time for the aftermath and it is an amazing tale to tell. While a proper retrospective is required and being worked on, for the purposes of today’s editorial let’s just go with the cliff notes version of events!

Roughly a month ago a Kickstarter campaign launched for Love Series Regenerate: a visual novel project by a group called Akisekai. The campaign, which was the second campaign for the same project, was doing very well and had made nearly seven thousand dollars; well over its original goal of one thousand dollars. However, as it entered its final weeks trouble began to brew. Several backers and onlookers began to question Akisekai on the art being used on the campaign page: specifically whether or not he owned the artwork. In response, Akisekai attempted a typical CYA and put the blame on the artist themselves, one Eccopink, had never been clear on the terms of use. In response to their response, Eccopink responded that the art was meant to be used as concepts only and not for public or commercial use.

From there, the once profitable campaign started to unravel. Speculation began to grow that Akisekai had misused or outright stole assets in the past. In the face of these allegations, Akisekai cancelled the Kickstarter campaign and bolted from the public eye. Unfortunately, the entire meltdown is now unavailable for viewing due to a copyright claim made by Eccopink to Kickstarter, but there is still a lot for the rest of us to dig through. For the past few days, VNs Now has been discussing Akisekai with several anonymous sources, not only to get a better picture of how this happened but also to look into the allegations of Akisekai, had done this several times in the past.

First we have to ask a simple enough question; is the person behind Akisekai just an idiot or a scam artist? All evidence points, ironically enough, to both on that one as Akisekai, under just this particular alias, had tried to get financial backing and partnerships from several prominent visual novel organizations by flat out lying to them in the most ludicrous of ways. However, there is some method to the madness. Usually Akisekai or whatever his name is will contact someone by insisting that a more well-known third party is involved with their work. This led to him trying to get into the good graces of a source who provided VNs Now with several screenshots of their conversations. As per my agreement with said source, it has been edited to avoid direct references to their true identity, so in keeping with my love of good movies I’m just going to call him Barzini because Tattaglia is a pimp which means that nickname is invalid. So let start with the beginning which was July 30th and a back and forth between Barzini and Akisekai on their campaign’s stretch goals:

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Apparently the beginning of the questions were due to Akisekai’s desire to get onto Steam Greenlight and he was looking for help for that from our source:

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Not long after this, Akisekai approached Barzini again for help convincing another group for their help:

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Interestingly enough, I was forwarded a link from a Korean developer who apparently wasn’t happy with Akisekai. I’ll leave it to those who can speak Korean to let the rest of us know how pissed off they were. Akisekai also took time in their conversations to share his ideal goals for his project:

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After this point, Barzini’s communication with Akisekai started to fade out, but not before our source collected some more information I will share in a moment and tried to get more money out of him by claiming family issues. This is similar to a situation Sekai Project faced when they were approached by Akisekai on similar grounds. That source spoke to me recently and confirmed Akisekai’s, or whatever his current alias, is MO:

It wasn’t much longer before -REDACTED- contacted us mentioning that he was bad news, but rather than cutting communications we pressed for more information. We found out he was working out of Vancouver, BC, and was to the best of our knowledge, a student at a nearby community college. And we then learned the cycle he puts everyone through, of recruiting, demanding, and then disappearing…At this point, with adequate information we decided to withdraw from the deal, stating that we weren’t interested in the project. Though this didn’t stop him from going on and saying he was working with us as well, but we put a stop to that fairly quick. The only communication we had past that was two other requests for support, the second sounding more desperate and including a claim that he was raising the money for his mother, who had cancer. And I know that’s a tactic he’s used before, so I just ended up blocking him from emails entirely.

I left most of this information completely intact because it is vital everyone knows his MO regardless of his alias. His cycle of recruiting by using other, well-known names, then demanding money or assets quickly before either becoming desperate or disappearing with said money or assets is not only intentional, but diabolically easy thanks to the anonymity provided by the Internet. And while I know everyone is still happy that the Kickstarter for Love Series Regenerate has been cancelled and currently is under investigation by Kickstarter, all signs point to this being a pause in Akisekai’s scam operations; not a end.

Through our sources, VNs Now has acquired the plans and outline for a visual novel series tentatively titledAutumn’s World. This project was scheduled to hit Kickstarter shortly after Love Series Regenerate wrapped up. During my interview with one of the sources, I was told that source had been contacted this very week by a writer who had been hired by Akisekai to develop this project thanks to that source’s name being used as a front by Akisekai. It stands to reason that others have been, or will be in the future, approached to provide assets or money to this new title. Currently, I am on the fence about releasing those documents but the basic premise is straightforward Slice-Of-Lice featuring a high school student named Minato who is living in Hokkaido after being shipped off by his parents. It isn’t exactly new territory, but the information needed to be out there.

Our faithful source Barzini also saved a side conversation where Akisekai talked about his coming partnership with a Southeast Asian doujin circle called Next Heaven.  He claims the agreement is already signed and time has been set aside to work on their new project:

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VNs Now is reaching out to Next Heaven to see if this claim has any bases behind it or if he is, again, using a well-known name to front his scam operations. Finally, I would like to thank the EVN devs and fans who rang the Twitter and social media bell on Akisekai’s scam before it could be fulfilled. To the best of my knowledge those people are Taosym, M. Hollingsworth, Ezhno, Deji, Raithfyre and Eccopink. The majority of the legwork was handled by Hollingsworth so major kudos to them for not only contacting Eccopink, but also keeping the pressure on Akisekai. This type of internal policing is going to be vital in the weeks and months ahead. As we have seen time and time again, there is no system on place to give backers security against fraudulent campaigns. Unless the campaign fails, backers are out of luck which only makes it that much harder for people to use crowd-funding the way it was meant to be used.

Luckily for all of us, the system for crowd-funding will change sooner rather than later to protect the honest campaigns and their backers from being tarnished by this sort of greed…ironically thanks to this sort of greed. Until then, keep your eyes open and always question the campaigns. No matter how earnest they appear to be, question until they have no more honest answers to give. It’s the only weapon backers have, but it is a damn good one.

JP3: Out.

Thank you to all of the open and anonymous sources who contributed to this report!

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